PLANNING FOR THE OPPONENT
ATHENS — Once again there is a lot of attention on Georgia’s quarterbacks heading into Saturday’s game. The Bulldogs play their home opener at Sanford Stadium against Nicholls State of the Football Championship Subdivision. Unlike last week, nobody is sweating the outcome.
Nevertheless, there continues to be considerable debate about who should be under center when the ninth-ranked Bulldogs line up against the Colonels. Some argue that now is the perfect time to go to the fabulous freshman from the Pacific Northwest.
That would be Jacob Eason, quarterback extraordinaire. Trouble is, upon further review, Eason looked rather ordinary. That’s according to his coaches, at least. They broke down last Saturday’s North Carolina video a hundred different ways, in addition to continuing their daily evaluations and tests in practice and meetings.
Their conclusion: It remains a dead heat between he freshman Eason and the fifth-year senior Greyson Lambert.
Alas, it’s not going to matter this week.
The Colonels of the little ol’ Southland Conference have had plenty of experience with matchups such as they’ll get Saturday at Sanford Stadium – and not much success. Nicholls State has played a Power 5 team for a pay check in each other last four seasons and it hasn’t gone well. It lost to Colorado (2015), Arkansas (2014), Oregon (2013) and Oregon State (2012) by a combined score of 264-13.
The closest Nicholls State has ever come to upsetting a Power 5 team was a 35-31 loss to Indiana in 2005.
Now onto Georgia’s plans for this week.
EXPAND THE DEPTH CHART
The Bulldogs played 12 true freshmen in the win over North Carolina and I would expect that number to increase significantly this Saturday.
Among the freshmen who did not get in the game last weekend that likely will this one are cornerback Mecole Hardman, tailback Elijah Holyfield, receiver Tyler Simmons and offensive lineman Solomon Kinley. Wide receiver Javon Wims, a junior college transfer from Hinds Community College by way of Miami, might also see his first action.
This game comes at an opportune time to possibly rest some of the starters and build some depth in the process. Expect the Bulldogs to dress more than 100 players, and they might play that many as well.
FINE TUNE PASSING GAME
Georgia did a lot of things well against North Carolina, but passing the football and protecting the passer were not among them. Even though Lambert and Eason completed 65 percent of their passes for 185 yards and didn’t throw any interceptions, with the exception of Eason’s 51-yard completion to Isaiah McKenzie, they weren’t attempting many difficult throws. In fact, the Bulldogs averaged just 11.1 yards on their 12 other completions. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks were sacked four times, three for Lambert alone.
Look for Georgia to tighten the screws on their “pass-pro” and try to hone in on intermediate to long throws in the middle of the field. They might not need to complete such passes on Saturday, but they will eventually.
SPECIALIZE IN SPECIAL TEAMS
Against North Carolina, the Bulldogs gave up a kickoff-return touchdown, missed a field goal, shanked a punt and were flagged for a personal foul on punt coverage. Suffice it to say, they’ll look to have a better day on Saturday.
Georgia needs to improve on all facets of special teams play, and will look to do that against the Colonels. Don’t be surprised if several different kickers get a shot. The same could be said of punters, returners and coverage personnel.
STUFF THE RUN
While it wasn’t their undoing, the Bulldogs weren’t exactly stout against the run in the opener. In fact, the Tar Heels averaged 8.4 yards per rush. Kirby Smart said most of that came after missed tackles. Without being specific, he said North Carolina gained more than 100 of their 159 yards rushing after initial contact.
Georgia will have plenty of opportunities to work on that Saturday. The Colonels use their quick-tempo offense to run the ball nearly twice as much as they throw it (486 times to 261 last season). And they have a quarterback who can hurt defenses both ways. Senior Tuskani Figaro (6-3, 220) currently has seven games of 100 yards rushing or more to his credit, which is just one shy of the school’s career record.